Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series on how Fairborn small businesses have weathered and persevered through 2020.
FAIRBORN — If there is an apt phrase for the circumstances of the pandemic, it is that necessity is the mother of invention. For many, technology provided a workaround for staying engaged in everyday activities and connecting with loved ones.
Miami Valley Dance Center, located on Broad Street, is one of many businesses that normally rely on in-person contact with their students. However, as the pandemic progressed, studio director Kelly Fuller and her staff had to find ways to think outside the box.
As businesses across the country converted their meetings and corporate operations to Zoom, MVDC began teaching dance classes using the digital platform as well.
“From March through May, we converted classes to virtual through Zoom,” Fuller said. “We were able to bring kids back into the studio in June.”
The studio was supposed to have its 40th anniversary show in June, but that recital was pushed back to October. In order for students to return to the studio, instructors taped off six-foot squares in the floor, took temperatures upon arrival, and implemented mask-wearing for the older kids.
“The kids did a really good job,” Fuller said. “They were excited to be back in the studio for summer classes.”
The pandemic has also affected how Fuller and her instructors teach. Though during the summer and fall it was safe enough to return to in-person classes, the staff aren’t able to do as much hands-on work as before. However, the use of technology has removed barriers for some kids.
“If they have to stay home, they can still Zoom into the class. The rest of their classmates are in person,” Fuller said. “There’s an assistant teacher dedicated to working with the virtual kids.”
In-person classes started back up in September, with four weeks to prepare for the recital in October. Once again the staff at MVDC thought outside the box. Rather than performing in front of a live audience, they filmed the recital, edited it together, and shared it in a livestream.
“It turned out really neat,” Fuller said. “Obviously we prefer a live audience, but knowing that wasn’t going to happen, it was nice to have that alternative.”
Their experiences during the October recital set a precedent for putting on their December performance, the Winter Carnival of Dance. The dancers filmed the recital in the studio on a Saturday, using a green screen background to fill in the exciting set pieces. Since the recital, the studio has gone back to virtual classes, due to a rise in cases in the area.
Additionally, MVDC conducted two major fund-raisers over the course of the year. The first was for children of parents who lost their jobs in the pandemic. Scholarships created from that fundraiser allowed their children to keep taking dance lessons despite financial hardships. The fund-raiser, posted on Facebook, raised $1,500 in two days.
“I posted it at night, and by the time I woke up it was already at $1,000,” Fuller said. “What made my heart happy was it was a lot of our alumni donating, and posting positive messages.”
A second fund-raiser raised money for the Fairborn FISH food pantry, just in time for Christmas. Dancers may break their dress code a total of three weeks out of the year, this being one of them, and in order to be out of dress code they must bring a nonperishable food item.
In addition, a Facebook fund-raiser raised $3,500 for the non-profit.
“Every year we’ve been able to give them a nice donation and we wanted to do that again,” Fuller said.
Fuller credited her staff with remaining dedicated to their students throughout the pandemic. She said she didn’t know anything about Zoom before the pandemic, but the creative ways of implementing technology have allowed them and their students to continue their craft.
“We’re thinking, how can we still make this happen but in a different way?” Fuller said. “It’s been stressful but it’s also ‘hey, we can make this work.’”
Reach London Bishop at (937) 502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.